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(1956). The Psychoanalytic Study of the Child. An Annual 9, 1954: Lilli Peller (New York). 'Libidinal Phases, Ego Development and Play.' Pp. 178–198.. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 37:214.
Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing: The Psychoanalytic Study of the Child. An Annual 9, 1954: Lilli Peller (New York). 'Libidinal Phases, Ego Development and Play.' Pp. 178–198.

(1956). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 37:214

The Psychoanalytic Study of the Child. An Annual 9, 1954: Lilli Peller (New York). 'Libidinal Phases, Ego Development and Play.' Pp. 178–198.

This is an attempt to fit the wealth of observational data on children's play into the conceptual framework of psycho-analytic theory. Play is conceived as a form of ego activity attempting to deal with quantitatively low levels of anxiety arising from external pressures and intersystemic conflicts. It has a pleasure-seeking as well as a defensive function and is instrumental in the growth of sublimations.

Four developmental groupings are discriminated according to the main anxieties attached to prevailing phases of object relationship. (I) Anxieties in the early narcissistic cathexis of the body, arising from feelings of powerlessness, are denied and compensated for by body play with hallucinatory gratification and magical motivation. A notable increase in body skill and an active search for body mastery results. (II) Separation anxieties related to the preoedipal aspects of the omnipotent mother relationship lead to an attempt to master loss through play with substitute materials, initiate the ability to bear delay, and so to set up lasting object relations. (III) Anxieties about loss of love in the oedipal situation initiate defensive identificatory phantasies, which are played out plastically with other children and lead to extensive imaginative manipulation of ideas and materials. (IV) Anxieties relating to the superego and superego figures lead to organized group games in which the dissolving oedipal ties find gratifying substitutes in the framework of rules and an organized plot. The more structured play of the older child shows a decrease in overt phantasy consequent on guilt feelings. The highly formalized play of the latency period carries as well deeply unconscious group phantasies congealed into conventional and relatively affectless forms in the course of race history. A similarly defensive mitigation of affect takes place for the adult in the formalized media of the arts, notably the dramatic.

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Article Citation

(1956). The Psychoanalytic Study of the Child. An Annual 9, 1954. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 37:214

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